European Business: How do you plan to convince the general public that the time for completely sustainable transportation has come?
Bart Jacobsz-Rosier: Speeding up this transition is the whole point of our company. We believe that the only way to achieve this transition is by inspiring people, and you can only inspire people if you build a product which is better in every way than anything that already exists. This reflects the bar we set for ourselves from the very beginning: We set out to compete with the best petrol-powered scooter out there. The most popular and well-known scooters are probably those by Vespa with their very elegant designs and iconic brand. That’s what we wanted to beat. At the same time, electric vehicles have to be affordable. Many consumers think with their wallets, and that is totally fair. You only have so much money you can spend. Unfortunately, if considered in a global context, vehicles with electric motors are usually not competitive in this regard. Think of the Tesla Model 3 – Elon Musk calls it an affordable car, but at 30,000 USD, it isn’t at all. Based on global per-capita income, only 0.5 % of the world’s population could afford it. Not many more could afford the cheapest electric car sold today, at a price of approximately 20,000 USD.
Electric vehicles have to be affordable. Many consumers think with their wallets, and that is totally fair. Bart Jacobsz-Rosier
Extrapolate from this two decades into the future, and we might be able to lower the price window to 10,000 USD for an electric car – which means that still only a quarter of the world’s population would have the means to purchase it. But what about the other three quarters in need of affordable clean mobility? Keep in mind that it’s largely third-world countries anyway which will suffer most from all the ghastly problems related to pollution, not the developed world.
European Business: And that’s where Etergo’s scooters come in?
Bart Jacobsz-Rosier: My point is: Transition to environmentally sustainable transportation won’t be achieved if we only work towards providing the top percentages of the world’s population with adequate solutions. The entire world needs to be able to participate. It is the biggest economic and infrastructural challenge ever faced by mankind. And you’re right: The only thing that is going to be affordable for a majority of the people living on this planet is two-wheeled vehicles. This is why we are aiming to produce high volumes of our Etergo scooters. Our first goal is to establish production facilities capable of an output of 60,000 units per year in Europe. Once we have achieved that, we intend to start production on one million units per year in Asia within five to seven years.
Transition to environmentally sustainable transportation won’t be achieved if we only work towards providing the top percentages of the world’s population with adequate solutions. Bart Jacobsz-Rosier
European Business: Through a crowdfunding campaign, more than 30,000 people have invested a total of over 17 million EUR into Etergo – numbers which only very few business projects achieve. What allowed your crowdfunding campaign to take off like that?
Bart Jacobsz-Rosier: We were junkies for knowledge and extremely pro-active in our crowdfunding campaign from the start. When the first few dozen people signed up, we called them immediately and asked them for their feedback and their ideas about what we could improve. We implemented these changes the same day and changed our website accordingly. The next day, we repeated that process, and this feedback loop helped tremendously in getting our message out and explaining to people what they needed to know. We quickly realized that the shorter our feedback loop, the quicker we could ramp up our learning curve and our financial means.
European Business: While Etergo wants to build the scooter of the future, most entrepreneurs in the mobility sector are focused on building the car of the future – usually a self-driving one. What makes you believe that people will still want to ride around on two wheels in two decades’ time, when it seems like most players are betting that people won’t even want to drive their own cars anymore?
Bart Jacobsz-Rosier: Cars are really big and one of the major challenges the world still has no solution for is congestion. Cars will become more affordable in the future, and the more affordable they become, the more of them will be on the roads. The problems caused by this phenomenon can only be alleviated by reducing the amount of space vehicles occupy in public areas. If you stay on four wheels, you’ll always be bigger than a scooter, and in the congested city of the future, having two fewer wheels will be a real advantage.
Interview: Julian Miller | Pictures: Etergo